All Night and Down the Block, Gamers Wait for "Warcraft" Add-On

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Though a few passers-by by mumbled derogatory comments under their breath, and at least one guy hurled insults from the back of a passing taxi, most of those who passed the hundreds of gamers lined up outside of the Midtown Best Buy last night simply were just curious: "What's this line for?"

They were there to pick up a shrink-wrapped package of pleasure. Blizzard's World of Warcraft franchise has drawn in 11 million players worldwide, and midnight Thursday meant the official release of "Wrath of the Lich King," the game's second expansion pack.

To mark the event, Best Buy and Blizzard co-sponsored launch parties across the world like the one in Manhattan, complete with trivia contests, Blood Elf hotties and appearances from many responsible for the game's creation.

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Though Warcraft players -- all gamers, in fact -- have to deal with mockery (take "South Park", for example), the mix of teens and adults, men and, yes, women, that braved the cold weather just to grab a video game gives more credence to the idea that gaming has officially gone mainstream.

Mike Morhaime, a co-founder of Blizzard and one of the minds behind Warcraft, agrees, pointing out that franchises such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and the Nintendo Wii console, show that gaming is anything but a nerdy, fringe phenomenon. "The old stereotypes, I'm not sure they really apply anymore," he said.

Brooklyn-based costume designer Dawn Mostow was one of the few who attended the launch in full costume, which she explained was that of a Knight Elf Rogue. Her friend Quill was similarly attired. (Two Best Buy employees with giant ears and provocative costumes, representing another species of elf, worked the crowd.)

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"It's just really fun to dress up in New York," said Mostow. She said it was easy to deal with those few who were quick to mock them, especially from the safety of a passing car. "We outnumber them," she said.

The crowd was well-behaved, friendly to one another and more than happy to answer questions about the event. Several used the long wait to strike up friendships (as opposed to Super-Friendships), and cheerfully exchanged Warcraft usernames and made plans to play together in the future.

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Morhaime said such an attitude was a product of the social nature of World of Warcraft. Sure you can play alone, but things are a lot more fun if you team up with two dozen of your closest Internet pals.

"I think it's a very social game," said Morhaime. "You're able to experience the world with your friends, you're able to meet new friends online, and you can make meaningful friendships online."

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Peter Manse, a student from New Jersey, made it to Best Buy on Tuesday night and was first in line to purchase "Lich King." When he and his two friends saw the effort Blizzard and Best Buy were putting into the event, Manse said, they felt the best way to show their appreciation was to camp out overnight.

That might make Manse king of the dorks in some people's eyes, but he and his compatriots didn't care. In fact, a lot of the gamers absolutely love the "South Park" episode. They and Manse take the ribbing philosophically.

"If you can't laugh at the stuff you're doing," he said, "you probably shouldn't be doing it anyway."

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